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Mil 500 Vueltas Nano Stern MGM

An es­tab­lished star in Chile and a bud­ding su­per­nova in the US, where he’s sched­uled to tour ex­ten­sively over the next cou­ple of months, Nano Stern has gar­nered a solid fol­low­ing in Aus­tralia, where he has wowed fes­ti­val-go­ers from Wood­ford to WOMADe­laide. Nat­u­ral charisma com­bined with the in­nate emo­tional power of his ul­tra­soul­ful singing and melodic songs and all­round mu­si­cal acu­men gives the Chilean, who chooses to sing ex­clu­sively in his na­tive lan­guage even though he’s flu­ent in English, the ca­pac­ity to se­duce non-Span­ish speak­ers. More ex­pan­sive and eclec­tic than any of his four pre­vi­ous stu­dio al­bums, Mil 500 Vueltas, which has al­ready struck gold in Chile, should con­sol­i­date Stern’s stand­ing around the world. Ter­ri­tory tra­versed ranges from in­ti­mate stripped-back acous­tic can­cions such as Todo Canta and La Confianza that are the 30-year-old’s stock in trade to up-tempo lay­ered num­bers with Latin and South Amer­i­can over­tones that rock out to elec­tric guitar riffs, driv­ing brass, pump­ing bass and drum­beats. The ghosts of Chilean folk he­roes Vic­tor Jara and Vi­o­leta Parra hover over Ar­bol del Bosque, an ode to na­ture (Patag­o­nia in par­tic­u­lar) that floats be­tween an im­pres­sion­is­tic De­bussy-es­que style and in­dige­nous Ma­puche rhythms. The in­flu­ence of the coun­try’s best-known band, In­tiIl­li­mani, is im­plicit in an up­lift­ing car­ni­va­lesque cel­e­bra­tion of mi­gra­tion, Fes­tejo de Color, in which Colom­bian and Peru­vian di­vas Marta Gomez and Su­sana Baca and Ar­gen­tinian singer Pe­dro Az­nar con­trib­ute a verse each, and also in the al­bum’s mul­ti­in­stru­men­tal ar­se­nal that in­cludes a horn sec­tion and a string quar­tet. Another distin­guished guest, the leg­endary Amer­i­can folk singer Joan Baez, adds depth to the stir­ring acous­tic guitar and ac­cor­dion-flavoured Las Ve­nas. Academy Award­win­ning Uruguayan mu­si­cian Jorge Drexler en­hances Ser Pe­queno, a muted, hornssuf­fused piece that bursts into life on the back of an in­dige­nous can­dombe rhythm. Afro-Peru­vian mu­sic gives Ley de Vida an in­fec­tious lilt. Dando Vueltas is car­ried along on a funky bed of bowed bass and tor­rid trom­bone as Stern cranks up vo­cal in­ten­sity. Va­por fea­tures a com­bi­na­tion of a cap­pella singing, pal­mas-style per­cus­sion, thump­ing drum­beats and soar­ing sax­o­phone. Pasa el Tiempo is more gen­tly pulsed by acous­tic guitar and vi­o­lin. Boldly ar­ranged with ex­em­plary util­i­sa­tion of dy­nam­ics, the al­bum’s la­tent mu­si­cal trea­sures are re­vealed with each spin. The fact that the songs are in Span­ish is no im­ped­i­ment to lis­tener en­joy­ment, although those who un­der­stand the lingo will have full ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the artist’s poetic lyrics and well-honed so­ciopo­lit­i­cal sen­ti­ments. With his myr­iad in­flu­ences and mas­tery of folk, pop, rock, clas­si­cal and jazz, Stern has cre­ated a mu­si­cal lan­guage that’s very much his own. It’s hard not to be moved by the pas­sion, grace and fire of this young man’s heart­felt songs.

Tony Hil­lier

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